The mother of a 13-year-old girl who says she was assaulted by a man while quarantining at a hotel for coronavirus patients run by state welfare services expressed her outrage at the end of a court hearing that failed to indict the man on rape charges.
“I cannot believe I have to say this — I feel like they raped my daughter a second time,” the mother of the young girl said.
“His [crime] is rape, any other interpretation is false,” she added, claiming that “this decision gives the green light and aids the next rape.”
Yarin Sherf, 21, was indicted at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on charges of forbidden consensual relations, sexual harassment, making threats, assault, and giving an intoxicating drink to a minor, but not rape.
“A situation in which on one hand the indictment indicates violence against a 13-year-old girl, and on the other speaks of forbidden consensual relations, is illogical and unthinkable,” the mother said.
“We will not keep quiet until the rapist receives full punishment for the grave act he committed,” she said.
The decision also drew an outcry from activists.
The head of Israel’s largest women’s rights group called the indictment a “serious system failure for the state.”
As the indictment was being filed, demonstrators rallied near the courthouse to show their support for the girl.
Although under Israeli law, sex with a minor who is below the age of 14 is considered rape, even if consensual, prosecutors shied away from filing the charge because the alleged victim had told Sherf that she was 14.
According to the indictment, Sherf arrived at the hotel, which provides virus quarantine for youths who are not able to self-isolate at home, on February 23, where he first met the girl.
Over the following hours, he established contact via the Instagram social media app, and after first inviting her to his room, she instead suggested he come to hers.
However, before he arrived, the girl discovered his age via another social media app he was using, TikTok, and then told him he is “too old.”
When she asked him if he was really 21 years old, Sherf responded that he was 20 and asked the girl her own age. She told him she was 14, prosecutors said.
Sherf continued to message the girl, who told him to “let it go” and declined his suggestions that he visit her room.
In one message, Sherf wrote that if she didn’t agree, he would carry out an “Eilat 2.0,” referring to the alleged gang rape last year of a girl, 16, at a hotel in the resort city.
The following day, a staff member at the hotel, after seeing the two speaking together in a public area, warned Sherf to stay away from the girl. Sherf indicated that he would.
Nonetheless, the two continued to message each other and the girl eventually told Sherf to come to her room, where they had sex. During the encounter, Sherf slapped the girl when she refused to perform oral sex and then apologized when she warned him against the behavior.
Hours later, Sherf suggested they again meet in her room after the girl sent him a photo of herself via Instagram. Although she initially refused, telling him “I want to be alone,” she opened the door to him when he turned up and they again had sex.
A counselor who later knocked at the door and entered the girl’s room found Sherf hiding in the bathroom, after which the incident was reported to the police.
Prosecutors asked that Sherf be held in custody until the end of proceedings.
“The respondent took advantage of the power difference between him and the minor, and despite his understanding of her very young age, did not stop his actions until he obtained what he wanted,” said prosecutor Ravit Shafir, who filed the indictment.
Hagit Pe’er, chair of the NA’AMAT women’s rights group, called the indictment a “failure” and pointed out that sex with a minor who is below the age of 14 is considered rape, even if the sex was consensual.
“A girl is sexually assaulted after the state determined that she enter a coronavirus hotel, without parents, that is supposed to be a safe place for her,” Pe’er said in a statement.
Sahar Shmueli, who joined the demonstration outside the courthouse, told the Walla news website that she was acquainted with Sherf.
“There is a 13-year-old girl here who was raped and the judge doesn’t care,” Shmueli said, rejecting the notion that the sex was consensual. “It is important that every victim know that they are not alone even if the system protects the rapists and not them.”
Sherf is active on social media and has posted remarks in the past deemed derogatory and indicative of violent attitudes toward women.
The incident comes after several recent high-profile cases involving violence against women in Israel, a trend that has drawn protest demonstrations — one was held Saturday in Tel Aviv — demanding the government take action against the episodes.
Earlier this week three men were arrested for allegedly gang-raping a 16-year-old girl in the north of the country.
In February, a police officer was charged with murder for allegedly shooting his wife dead in the West Bank settlement of Na’ale earlier that month.
Days earlier, a man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the rape and premeditated murder of his former wife’s 12-year-old daughter.
In September last year, 11 men were indicted in the alleged gang rape of the 16-year-old girl at a hotel in Eilat, in a case that shocked the country and spurred calls for reforms.